Does your office have a cake tray heaving with tempting treats? This is a pretty typical scenario in modern workplaces, where grazing on a few sugary snacks is often viewed as a tactic to get through a busy day.
The problem is that while ‘free sugars’ – found in foods such as biscuits, chocolates, fizzy drinks and cakes – do provide a short-term boost in energy, they lack any real nutritional value. Consuming them can also push up your calorie intake quickly, which raises your chances of gaining weight, and being overweight is associated with a risk of numerous health problems.1
It isn’t about cutting sugar out completely. We’re sure you don’t want to be known as the person who banned the cake tray. Instead, why not lead by example and try to steer your team towards swapping over to more healthy ones on occasion? This can include fruit, which contains natural sugars that are much better for you.
How much sugar should we have each day?
As a guideline, you should aim to have no more than about 30 grams (roughly seven teaspoons) of free sugars every day. That’s not as easy as it sounds. Sugar is added to a huge range of foods and drinks that we eat regularly. You don’t need to worry about the natural sugars found in fruit and vegetables. These release energy more gradually and aren’t associated with the same health problems as free sugars.2
The next time you’re planning food for a team meeting, or stocking up on shared snack supplies in the office, think about trying these easy low-sugar alternatives.
- Swap sweets for olives.
- Swap biscuits for rice cakes with freshly chopped vegetables and dip.
- Swap crisps for plain nuts.
Keeping fat in mind too
A diet high in saturated fat – the ‘bad’ kind of fat – is likely to cause health problems, just as a diet high in free sugars is. You can tell saturated fat from other fats because it often becomes solid at room temperature. It usually comes from animal products, particularly meat, butter, cream and cheese. Saturated fat and free sugars are often found together in things like cakes and doughnuts.
Getting the balance right with sugar and fat
Both natural sugars and healthier types of fat (such as those found in oily fish and olive oil) have a place in a well-balanced diet. Your body actually needs a certain amount of fat to give you energy, while sugar can contribute to keeping your energy levels up.1,3
The main point to take away, though, is that most of us could do with cutting down a lot on ‘free sugars’ and saturated fat.
As a manager you obviously can’t (and no doubt wouldn’t want to) dictate what people eat. But think about what you might do to help people become a bit healthier in your workplace. Could you lead the way in swapping over to more healthy options? You might, for example, be able to influence the foods available in your canteen if you have one, or provide free fruit to get people away from relying on free sugars for their energy-burst.
1 Carbohydrate. British Nutritional Foundation. www.nutrition.org.uk, accessed August 2018
2 World Health Organisation. Guideline: Sugar intake for adults and children. www.who.int, published 2015.
3 Fat. British Nutritional Foundation. www.nutrition.org.uk, accessed August 2018